In the week that the government has lifted Plan B restrictions, we look ahead to a new phase as we learn to live safely with Covid-19. Although the virus is still here, the protection offered by vaccinations is allowing us to return cautiously to a more normal way of life.
Please read on for an overview of the Covid situation in Leeds and the steps we can take to keep ourselves and others safe. We also explain the options for getting your vaccinations in Leeds, how to apply for business support grants and the upcoming changes to international travel rules.
We hope this information is useful and helps you look forward to moving on from the pandemic. We have all had different experiences during this time, and it’s natural that some of us may feel anxious as restrictions relax. We can show kindness and understanding to others by continuing with a few simple precautions to reduce the risk posed to everyone by the virus.
Covid-19 and families in Leeds
The number of Covid cases in Leeds has fallen since the peak on 4 January, with a 14% decrease in the past week. However the case rate remains high in the city at 1,124 per 100K, compared with the average case rate in England of 1,000 per 100K.
Case numbers amongst school age children are significant. This age group does not yet have widespread protection from vaccination because they were the last group included in the vaccine roll-out. Work is ongoing to vaccinate children and young people aged 12 and above in schools and community clinics, so please take the opportunity to get this protection for your child and your family as soon as you can. You will find the latest government guidance for parents and carers about education and childcare settings online.
Covid-19 guidance is changing
This week the government’s Plan B measures ended, which lifts the mandates on working from home, using the NHS Covid Pass and wearing a face covering in indoor public spaces.
While many of us welcome the return of greater freedoms to our lives, we must remember that Covid-19 still has the potential to spread in our communities. The virus poses a great risk to people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
There are a few simple things that we can all do to keep ourselves and others safe. One in three people who have Covid have no symptoms, so regular testing is important to check whether you might infect other people. Please remember to use a lateral flow test before you go to meet others and adhere to self-isolation guidance when necessary.
Covid-19 spreads easily in enclosed places, so when you meet other people it’s worth considering if you can get together outdoors. If you can’t, you can lower the risk indoors by letting in fresh air, wearing a face covering and testing before you go.
It’s never too late to get your Covid vaccinations
Wherever you live or work in Leeds, there’s a vaccine clinic near you. Across the city there is a wide choice of venues where you can book an appointment or just drop in for your vaccinations.
If you work in the city centre or are heading there for shopping or leisure in the next couple of weeks, you’ll find drop-in clinics at Kirkgate Market on Fridays and Trinity Leeds on Saturdays and Sundays. There are out-of-town options for shoppers too, with a vaccination pop-up at the White Rose Centre this weekend.
The vaccination centre at Elland Road is open seven days a week, and venues including pharmacies, GP surgeries, schools, community centres and supermarkets are holding clinics too.
The NHS publishes all up-to-date details of venues, opening hours and vaccines offered so you can easily find a vaccine clinic near you. Whether you still need your first, second or booster dose, the sooner you get vaccinated the sooner you will build up your own immunity to the virus and protect others too.
Support grant scheme opens up to smaller businesses
There’s welcome news for smaller businesses this week as a support grant scheme which helped businesses throughout the pandemic lowers the level of business costs needed to qualify.
The discretionary grant scheme offers assistance of up to £15,000 to help with overheads for Leeds-based businesses and charities from any sector. Applicants must submit a figure for their fixed business costs for the period from 1 August last year to 31 March this year.
From 1 February the qualifying figure will be reduced to £1,000 (from £2,000 previously) which opens up the scheme to smaller organisations. Please contact the council as soon as possible to apply for a grant before the deadline of 22 February.
A second grant scheme offers one-off grants worth up to £6,000 to Leeds-based businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors. The scheme has extended its deadline for applications from the end of February to 18 March.
Find out more and apply on the council website.
New testing rules a boost for vaccinated travellers
The arrangements for travelling abroad are set to change next month, making it easier for many people to plan long-awaited holidays or visits to family and friends.
From 11 February, fully vaccinated people travelling to England from abroad will no longer have to test before departure or self-isolate on arrival. Those who are not fully vaccinated must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than two days before departure and take a pre-booked PCR test on arrival in England, at their own expense.
A look ahead
There’s lots to look forward to closer to home as well! Our partners at Leeds 2023 are marking one year to go until their celebration of culture takes off. Watch their One Year To Go film to see what’s in store.